Published June 27, 2022

Off Grid Cooking: The Wonder Box

Written by
Charlene Nelson
| The Dakotan

Here's another cool off-grid cooking method you may want to try: the Wonder Box. Here is simplicity and genius at it's best.

The Wonder Box is basically a slow-cooker that works by heat retention. It was developed in the 60's to help families in third world countries cook with very little fuel and this fuel-saving idea soon spread to the western world.

How it works

The process is pretty simple, but it's not entirely fuel-free. Put the ingredients for your meal into a pot. You will need about 15 minutes of energy to bring the food to the required temperature. This makes the Wonder Box the perfect companion to the rocket stove. [Click here].

Wonder Box with pan inside. [Photo: Charlene Nelson]

With a rocket stove, all you'll need is a few twigs and small pieces of wood to get the pot boiling. Once it's reached the right temperature (see recipe instructions), tuck the cooking pot into the Wonder Box, where it will retain its initial heat and continue to cook. The super insulation of the Wonder Box traps all that heat, and your meal continues to cook for another four to six hours.

Start a meal in the morning before you leave for work and you can come home to a hot meal, without worrying about over-cooking, over-heating or malfunctioning electronics.

Yellow delicious Wonder Box. [Photo: Charlene Nelson]

Where to get one

A decade or so ago, the Wonder Box was all the rage among preppers, and you could buy them online. In fact, there were a few charitable organizations in third-world countries that sold them online and the proceeds went to benefit schools or generate income for villages in these countries.

You can still find a version of the Wonder Box online, called the Wonder Bag. It's more of a round wrap-up pillow design instead of the original box-like shaped bolster, but the concept is the same. Today's version is commercially made, so it is no longer a fundraising project like it was ten or fifteen years ago. It costs about $45-$50.

The good thing is, it's super easy and pretty inexpensive to make your own, especially if you already have an unwanted bean-bag chair lying around. You don't need great sewing skills to make the Wonder Box. It's basically a big bolster, so it's all just straight, easy-to-sew seams.

If you do an internet search of Wonder Box, you'll find dozens of blog posts and prepping sites with patterns and instructions on how to make your own as well as the basics of cooking meals with the Wonder Box.

Wonder Box with optional stem and leaves. [Photo: Charlene Nelson]

Here's what you'll need to make a Wonder Box:

3½ yards of fabric
Polystyrene beads, like those found in a beanbag
Butcher paper (to trace out the pattern)
Sewing machine

For the fabric, canvas, cotton duck or any tightly woven cotton is ideal. One flat double- or queen-sized sheet from the thrift store will do the trick and will only cost a couple dollars.

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